Constitutional amendment would legalize marijuana in Nevada

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A Las Vegas group named Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement wants to amend the state constitution to legalize possession and use of marijuana.

The petition drive was begun Friday by filing with the Secretary of State's Office, but it has just five weeks to collect more than 61,000 valid signatures.

Nevada's Constitution already requires the Legislature to provide for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. That language was put in by voters two years ago.

The proposed amendment would greatly expand the scope of that section to make Nevada treat marijuana much like it now treats the sale and use of alcohol.

It would add that "the use or possession of three ounces or less of marijuana by a person who has attained the age of 21 years is not cause for arrest, civil or criminal penalty, or seizure of forfeiture of assets."

The petition would require the state to provide for cultivation, taxation and sale of marijuana including licensing stores to sell pot to those over 21.

Those sales could be taxed, but at no more than the rate imposed on tobacco products. It would require that pot be provided at low cost to patients who need it for a medical condition and even protect an individual's supply of marijuana from being confiscated by law enforcement.

But the petition would allow the state to maintain penalties for driving under the influence of pot, sales or distribution to anyone under age 21 and special penalties for the sale, use or possession of the drug in a jail, prison or public school.

It would also bar smoking pot in a public place or gaming establishment and bar advertising of the drug.

The petition's organizers say similar drives are being started in several other states as well and that they feel the public is behind the plan.

They will start collecting signatures in Las Vegas this weekend and then move to Northern Nevada.

To get on this November's ballot, the petition must get at least 10 percent of the total votes cast in the 2000 elections and reach that same percentage in at least 13 of Nevada's 17 counties.

That would require a total of at least 61,336 valid signatures. The deadline for submitting those signatures is June 18 -- just five weeks from now.

If they can raise the signatures, the ballot question would then have to be approved by a majority of voters in two successive general elections -- 2002 and 2004 -- to become part of the Nevada Constitution.


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